TikToker charged for allegedly pretending to have cancer and scamming donors
She set up a GoFundMe page and documented her battle with cancer through TikTok, raising more than $37,303 from more than 439 donors
February 1, 2023 8:13am
Updated: February 3, 2023 7:29pm
A 19-year-old Iowa TikToker has been charged after scamming donors out of more than $37,000 by pretending to have pancreatic cancer and setting up a GoFundMe, authorities said.
Madison “Maddie” Russo was arrested on January 23 and was charged with first-degree theft, which could lead to up to ten years in prison, according to the Eldridge Police Department.
Russo allegedly faked having Stage 2 pancreatic cancer and “a tumor the size of a football that wrapped around her spine.”
She set up a GoFundMe page and documented her battle with cancer through TikTok, raising more than $37,303 from more than 439 donors, police said. Additionally, Russo also gave talks about her health struggles at St. Ambrose University and the National Pancreatic Foundation.
“As one can imagine, this diagnosis has been very hard on Maddie’s family. Just like with any cancer diagnosis, the cost of medical bills, gas, meals, and expense can be a burden, and that is something this family should not have to worry about,” the fundraiser stated.
“If you are able to, donations would be greatly appreciated to help cover medical expenses and to allow Maddie to focus on one thing only, which is to show that she is stronger than cancer and will beat this. Please donate/share if you can.”
TikTok scammer Maddie Russo explains why her unique cancer treatment and why she hasn’t had any hairloss 😂 pic.twitter.com/ul6eWMTjj2— Def Noodles (@defnoodles) January 31, 2023
However, on January 11, an anonymous witness who claimed to be a medical professional reached out to authorities, claiming that there were “many medical discrepancies” in Russo’s social media posts.
The witness said there were “terrible life-threatening inaccuracies of her medical equipment placement on her body,” among other inconsistencies. Other users claimed that the medical equipment and its placement did not seem correct.
According to investigators, Russo allegedly stole photos from real cancer patients and used them on her social media as her own.
Everyone who donated to Russo’s fundraiser has been reimbursed and she has been banned from GoFundMe. The teenager was released from jail on a $10,000 bond and is due back in court on March 2.